Letters: Opinions divided in the wake of Riverside cancellation

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We write in response to recent articles and letters and would like to address the following points:

1 Riverside have co-operated fully with Stamford Town Council’s requests where appropriate, and have tried to enter into discussions about various issues over the past six months.

2 When applying for funding, Riverside supplied the council with accounts independently examined by a chartered accountant.

Independent Examination was introduced as a simpler form of external scrutiny for those smaller charities and companies that might find a full audit too expensive.

Stamford Town Council is asking for a full audit of Riverside’s accounts, which would cost more than the £1,000 grant applied for.

The Charity Commission has emphasised that Independent Examination is still a stringent external review of the accounts and underlying procedures, and has advised that for Riverside to pay for a full audit is legally unnecessary.

Riverside is open about its finances; our trustees’ report and accounts are freely available to everyone to download from the Charity Commission’s website.

3 Several thousand people attend Riverside Festival each year.

Riverside is disappointed that a few of these engage in anti-social behaviour, such as that reported in the letters page recently, and does, and will continue to do, everything it can to prevent such incidents from occurring.

In this we are grateful for the advice provided throughout the planning process by the independent Riverside Event Safety Advisory Group, which is chaired by Lincolnshire police and attended by among others representatives of Warrenne Keep and the town council.

Every year Riverside distributes a letter to residents/businesses surrounding the site, giving details of agreed arrangements and contact information for the police, festival hotline and South Kesteven District Council’s 24-hour anti-social behaviour helpline.

We encourage people to report incidents so that appropriate steps can be taken. In 2010, six calls were reported on our Festival Hotline, no calls were received by the district council’s helpline, and the police responded to 23 incidents throughout the event.

Riverside also complies with strict noise management regulations. The district council’s environmental health department confirmed that it received no complaints about noise or breaches of agreed sound levels.

So many people enjoy the festival every year, and we are always grateful for their ongoing support.

However, should anyone have further concerns/queries relating to previous festivals or the cancellation of 2011’s event, please contact our festival helpline on 07766 266136 or e-mail info@riversidefestival.co.uk.

Cathy Sandbach,

Jenny Collins, Tony Rawlinson,

Barbara Sandbach and Kev Thurlby

The directors,

The Riverside Association of Music & Arts Ltd

The main point about the town council, which was omitted from my original letter, is that they have finally agreed a new set of terms and conditions for use of The Meadows which they know that the Riverside Festival cannot comply with given the size and scope of the event. This is the crux of the matter.

The Riverside Association operates with complete transparency and has supplied full and independently-checked accounts to the town council which meet Charity Commission guidance.

The problem with auditing accounts is that it would cost the charity £2,500 to do this, whereas the request to the town council is only for a £1,000 grant.

Following the Christmas period, when we are supposed to think of others, it was saddening to read Judith Hales’ letter last week which put herself over and above the delight and enjoyment of thousands and thousands of local people which happens on just one day in the year.

Finally, I urge all supporters of Riverside to sign an independent petition and spread the word. Please go to: www.ipetitions.com/petition/riverside/

Martin Smith

Stanley Street,

Stamford

I am writing this letter to pose a question to the people of Stamford: What is the value of a day?

In 2010 the volunteers of the Riverside Festival in total put in more than 7,000 hours of their time, skills and expertise, equal to more than 291 24-hour days. To them, the value of this day is 291 times that of any normal day.

Riverside also provides a stage for up-and-coming artists to showcase their talents in front of, for most, the biggest audience they will ever have played to.

They have the opportunity to find new fans and get themselves heard. To them, the value of this day is new ears hearing their music for the first time.

Last but not least, tens of thousands of people attend and enjoy Riverside every year, of all ages and from Stamford and beyond. To them, the value of this day is priceless.

On average, people spend a third of their lives asleep, three years on the toilet and nine years glued to their televisions.

And so, my question, addressed specifically to the town council and those few members of the public who complain endlessly about Riverside, is this: What is the value of a day?

If the festival is not your cup of tea, I’m sure one of the many other events held in Stamford throughout the year is.

However, your prejudices and overreactions are standing in the way of the enjoyment of those who do not share your grievances.

It’s just one day, so stick in some earplugs (or crank up Classic FM if you have the inclination), follow the advice given in the advanced publicity should you encounter any troubles, and let the rest of Stamford enjoy themselves. Tis but the worth of a day…

Nicola Collins

Peterborough Road,

Langtoft

Re: the request for Riverside Festival audited accounts.

Here is a quote directly from the charity commission’s website:

“A charity’s accounts must be audited by a registered auditor if either: Its gross income for the year exceeds £500,000; or its gross income for the year exceeds £250,000 and at the end of the year the aggregate value of its assets (before deduction of liabilities) exceeds £3.26m.”

The town council is not a branch of the Inland Revenue so why is it making this request?

Could it be because auditing is expensive and time consuming?

The more costs and demands put on any organisation, the less money and time is left over for its primary purpose.

This constant squeeze coupled with other difficulties can make the enterprise financially and logistically extremely difficult or impossible.

The town council’s request is the straw that has broken the camel’s back in the case of the Riverside Festival.

The council should know very well how much the festival costs to run – it has already been presented with independently assessed accounts.

All the money had to be raised by the organisers every year, an extremely arduous and time-consuming feat that they did for no reward or recognition.

All the more arduous thanks to steeply increasing costs and bureaucracy including reasonable requests. A full audit would be a further unnecessary headache for everyone concerned.

Last week’s Mercury article headlined “Town council defends stance over Riverside” quoted the town council as saying the festival’s organisers’ “reluctance” to provide the accounts was “regrettable but entirely their own decision”.’

It is deeply offensive that our representatives spend their time undermining other people’s philanthropic efforts and then cynically blame them when plans fall through.

The other proposed fringe events mentioned had not even got to the planning stage so how that relates to the request is bizarre.

I would encourage anyone to read the full detailed article on the Mercury website, www.stamfordmercury.co.uk

Graham Starkie

Witham Close,

Stamford